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By H. W. ©©Long 



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CONESUS LAKE IN HISTORY 



Read before the Livingston County, New York, Historical Society at 

the Summer Meeting, Maple Beach, Conesus Lake, 

August 27th, 1914, by H. W. DeLong. 



One hundred and thirty-five years ago next month had we been 
standing, on a certain morning where we are gathered here today, we 
could have distinctly heard that volley of rifles that sealed the fate of 
Sullivan's scouting party on Groveland hill but a short half mile away, 
and had we looked above that fringe of trees at the head of the lake, 
many of them still standing — we might have seen the smoke of the 
army's camp fires curling upward. The theme is an interesting one, 
and from an historical viewpoint marks an epoch in the building of this 
great commonwealth, second to none other. I regret that a better 
hand than mine is not here today to paint the glorious picture. 

Conesus, fairest of that peerless string 

Of lakes that gem the western Empire State 
Of thy past history let the poet sing 

Thy tragedy of war and savage hate. 

To see thee dimpling in these latter days 

Serene and smiling twixt the peaceful hills 
With well tilled farmlands bordering thy bays 

And summer homes, and groves where wildbird trills 

'Tis hard to think that once this happy shore 
Harked back the rifles' echo and the dreaded yell 

Of painted savage, while the cannons roar 
Turned back each wild thing to it's quiet dell. 



Yet so it was, the Seneca laid claim 
To all the region roundabout this lake 

Here was his hunting ground, his council flame 
His home, his heritage, that no foe could take. 

For many years the western Longhouse door 
Had been his place to guard, his trust to keep 

He held it 'gainst all comers o'er and o'er 
No wily foe e'er found the tribe asleep. 

And thus it was until the white man came 
With white men's vices, lust for land and pelf 

He bribed the savage, taught him war's fierce game 
Stirred him to rapine, took the gains himself. 

Under the spur of British greed and gold 
The Seneca, remorseless as the grave 

Swooped on the frontier, sparing young nor old 
Choosing the helpless, those with none to save. 

On Susquehanna's shore the war cry pealed, 
And burning cabins flared the evening skies, 

The helpless settler working in his field, 
Falls like the clod that in his furrow lies. 

Driven from their homes and forced the land to flee 
These hapless people goaded to despair, 

Appealed to Congress in humanity 
For help their ruined region to repair. 

The nation fighting for her very life, 
Resourceless, weakened by a skillful foe, 

Keeping up as best she could unequal strife, 
Gave heed at last and planned a telling blow. 

A force was raised at Washington's command 
Five thousand strong, with Sullivan their head 

With orders to invade the Seneca's home land 
Ply fire and sword and devastation spread. 

Up from Tioga marched this sturdy band 

Of Pennsylvania and Yankee men 
With veterans Clinton, Maxwell, Poor and Hand 

To lead the way through forest glade and fen. 



2 



Ruthlessly each Indian town they sacked, 
Burning the wigwams, trampling down the grain. 

Forcing the red men who were strongly backed 
By Tory aid, to fight and flee again. 

Relentless on they pressed, this gallant band, 
Through swamp and defile never trod before 

By white man's foot; then crossing higher land 
They came at length to Kan-an-dai-gua's shore. 

An Indian village here was sacked and burned, 
Orchards in fruitage leveled with the plain, 

Great fields of corn the troopers' horses spurned, 
A rest, a feast, and on they fared again. 

Southwestward on they marched to Honeoye, 
Where stores and invalids were left in care 

Of guards whose mission was to burn, destroy, 
And the rich acres of these flats lay bare. 

Still further in the west the troops marched on, 
Deploying scouts who scanned each rock and tree 

For savage foeman, for they knew anon, 
They'd near the Castle of the Genesee. 

Rising a gentle ridge, a vista opened wide, 
A verdant valley, rich with grass and brake, 

And lying just beyond in sparkling pride 
The calm, clear waters of Conesus lake. 

A halt was called, and on a green plateau 
The camp was pitched with military care, 

Sentries were posted pacing to and fro, 
And campfires scented the September air. 

Calling his leaders to the council tent 
The Chief, resolved upon a telling blow, 

Suggested that a group of scouts be sent 
To find the stronghold of the wary foe. 

With Sullivan's idea they all concurred 
And free discussion soon matured a plan, 

And each one tendering his final word 
It but remained to designate the man 



Whose foresight, bravery and woodland skill 
Would make him worthy for the task employed, 

They scanned the roster, checking all until, 
Their judgment centered on Lieutenant Boyd. 

Boyd was a youngster of the yeoman type, 
A Pennsylvania man, with a clean strain 

Of steadfast bravery that made him ripe 
For all the risks of Indian Campaign. 

Gladly he listened to the task assigned— 
To take a score of men and make his way, 

Reporting to the army left behind 
Just where the looked for Indian village lay. 

Out in the dusk he led his little band, 
A tried Oneida showing them the trail, 

Cautiously each foot of way was scanned, 
For cunning must match cunning to prevail 

In border warfare, and at break of day 
They reached a village on the Genesee 

Empty and silent all the wigwams lay, 
No sign of life save lodge fires burning free. 

The scouts presuming this the looked for town, 
Sent four men back to camp with a report 

To Sullivan, then each man settled down 
To breakfast, and a needed rest to court. 

While resting thus, one private Murphy, saw 
Two skulking red men hovering in the glade, 

On impulse he his trusty piece did draw 
And made a kill before his hand was stayed. 

The victim's fellow darted quick away 
With sinuous doublings like a startled deer 

And disappearing through the forest gray 

Boyd knew he now had deepest cause for fear. 

Murphy securing his victim's scalp and gun 
Laughed at his leader's sudden serious mien, 

Upheld his blunder with, "It must be done" 

Then notched his gun stock, saying "seventeen." 



Sure they were in jeopardy 

Boyd ordered a retreat 
Back to the army camped 

Eight miles away, 
A wilderness between 

And a foe both strong and fleet 
Straining to head them off 

lusting to slay. 
On sped the little band 

threading the path 
Swiftly and silently 

Coolly and steady, 
Bound to elude 

the red foeman's wrath 
Fingers on trigger guards 

every man ready, 
Safely they traveled 

six miles of the distance, 
Hope sprang afresh 

In the hearts of these boys. 
They would soon meet the pickets 

There would be no resistance 
"Hurrah! we're near camp 

with its safety and joys." 
The trail was now trending 

down into the valley 
On toward the stream 

that fed the bright lake, 
They sauntered along 

with no thought of a rally 
When a volley of rifles 

the forest did wake. 
A dozen young fellows 

some dead and some wounded, 
Went down at that fire 

on green Groveland hill, 
The survivors discovered 

that they were surrounded 
'Twas each man for himself 

"cut your way with a will." 
Just seven reached camp 

how they did was a wonder 



Boyd, and Parker a sergeant, 

both captive were made, 
The foe scalped the dead 

and securing the plunder 
Back to Littlebeardstown 

a swift march was made. 
To Brandt the great chieftain 

the young men were taken 
And safety was promised 

to Boyd by the sign 
Of the order that ne'er 

leaves a brother forsaken 
But holds all it's members 

in friendship benign. 
A call from a courier 

led Brandt from the village, 
When Butler the Tory 

took Boyd's case in hand 
Incensed and chagrined 

at Sullivan's pillage 
He brutally questioned 

and made a demand. 
That the captives should tell him 

the army's intention, 
Give the number of men, 

of cannon, of horse, 
And, failing to tell 

there'd be no intervention 
Twixt them and the stake 

without slightest remorse. 
Thay-en-dan-egea's promise 

gave Boyd full reliance, 
Not the least information 

could Butler obtain, 
His questions and threats 

were met with defiance, 
And the proud Tory leader 

repeated again 
His warning to give up the scouts 

to his warriors 
Who thirsted for vengeance 

and longed for the chance 



To wreak on the captives 

those fierce primal horrors 
The stake and the faggot 

the death song and dance. 
Boyd and Parker still clung 

to the hope of protection 
With confidence born 

of the heyday of youth 
Their patriot blood 

likewise felt the injection 
Of fealty to country 

to comrades, to truth. 

True to his nature, to his threatenings true 

The Tory chief as heartless as the "brave" 
Who, watching for the sign that was his clue, 

Saw Butler make it, then a whoop he gave. 

The waiting red men with triumphant shouts 
Rushed on their victims like a mighty scourge 

Dragged to their fire the intrepid scouts 
And made their torture song their funeral dirge. 

They met their death (and such a death) 

Like brave men fighting side by side, 
And history speaks low with bated breath 

When she recounts how Boyd and Parker died. 

This was the end of Sullivan's campaign, 

It marked an epoch in our nation's life, 
Peace on the border quietly did reign, 

And chance was given for the greater strife. 

When peace at last spread cut her generous wings 

O'er all the nation, a republic free, 
Back came these men of war with wives and household things 

And settled in this country of the Genesee. 

Today their prosperous descendants make 

A virile host, a power in the land, 
The Seneca is gone, but sweet Conesus lake 

Is just the same, with hills, and woods, and strand. 

As when, upon that bright September morn 

Along the slope above her waters head 
That little band of scouts, ensnared, forlorn 

Gave up the quota of their country's dead. 



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